Thursday, 28 May 2009

Only radical and sweeping reforms will restore trust

The mounting political scandal surrounding MP's expenses continues. It is however doing serious damage to peoples faith and trust in their MP's and democracy. It is quite rightly leading to demands for not just the tinkering and tightening up of the rules for MP's expenses but a root and branch reform of the political and voting system! Fixed term parliaments, a written constitution, an elected head of state, proportionate voting systems, state funding of political parties, MP's only having one job and receiving an average wage -all these measures must be brought in. Clearly the next election, which may come sooner than many people think if this political maelstrom continues, is going to be like no other. The composition of the next parliament could be like no other. Those MP's who are seen to be self serving rather than serving the public are going to be cast aside. A whole crop of new MP's -some of them from new political forces and parties and independents could be elected. The Euro elections on the 4th of June could be a harbinger of things to come. The fall out from these elections, if truly bad for Labour could result in a new leader being quickly installed and a likely Autumn election.

MP's expenses fire storms licks Lewisham

A member of my trade union -Unite and even my TU branch, 1183, the MP Margaret Moran and former Lewisham councillor and leader of Lewisham council has been forced to indicate she will not be standing at the next election. She has been faced with a wave of anger from her constituents in Luton, learning of her spending £22,000 of tax payers money on treating dry rot on a property in Southampton! An initial forthright and stout defense of her position, even the threat of litigation has crumbled and an acceptance that she would not have a 'cat in hells' chance of holding her marginal Luton seat.

Day 22 of the 'Torygraph's publication of the MP expenses scandal has taken down even more MP's and the firestorm of MP's details shows no sign of stopping. We even have the information relating to MP's outside interests to come!

We really are entering dangerous times. Over the weekend, the forces of the right in Luton marched through the town, smashing windows and assaulting Asian shop keepers. Clearly the forces of the right are seeking to whip up hostility and anger in the face of rising job losses hitting the area and anger with elected representatives.

The hard working Labour MP for East Lewisham, Bridget Prentice, has taken many by surprise by announcing recently her intention not to stand again. Is this an indication of more expense scandal that may unfold for Lewisham's MP's ?

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Allotment socialism

After more than 7 weeks wait, finally took a call from B&Q on Friday indicating my bargain discounted 6ft x4ft shed was ready for the allotment. This after visiting x3 stores trying to get hold of one! (I thought capitalism was supposed to be the most efficient method of allocating scarce resources!) Only problem, I had to collect it from Sidcup! Much bigger than expected and really awkward to bring home but after a slow and careful drive with the help of a trailer managed to get to the allotment on the Bellingham estate. Spent most of the day with my lad helping to assembly it.
Harvested the first crop of radish and lettuce today. What is great about the allotment is its collective and community basis. It is rented from the LA, nobody owns their plot or would ever think of seeking to purchase it. The site is run and managed by a collective of allotment holders. People are allocated a plot from a waiting list. If people are on income support or on a low wage they pay a discount amount. All plots are of equal size, although if people can't manage a whole one they can share it with friend. If people need help they can request assistance from the committee or more likely a neighbour would most likely help. The allotment committee and officers are drawn from the plot holders and are elected, not appointed and subject to recall and answerable to the allotment holders. An urgent meeting can be called to discuss important issues. Minutes are published and are open. The tasks undertaken by the committee members are not done for any reward, simply there are tasks that need doing. Many tools are collectively owned, often left by previous plot holders. Specialist tools can be borrowed or hired when needed. Volunteers are sort for help in cutting communal areas. Knowledge and information is shared and exchanged on tips and what grows well. Manure can be purchased collectively and composting can also be done collectively, along with the purchase of seeds at discount. Surplus produce can be exchanged and traded.
The re-birth of interest in allotments, I am sure is not just people keen to grow food more cheaply and get good exercise and fresh air, but the attractiveness of its democracy and socialism!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Vote Green in the Euro elections

I cycled to a meeting this morning in Tooley St. SE1 at Southwark Council's brand new massive office building. Strange -the building did not have a sign -I had to cycle up an down the street looking for the number! On the way back I kept a look out for any window posters -in the past Bermondsey has had a fair smattering of orange Lib/Dem posters. Not a single one -the only posters spotted were in the green strong hold of Ladywell. We are two weeks ago from a national election and it appears very little campaigning is taking place by the main parties.
Many of my political friends are however hard at work in the No2EU slate standing in every region. A quickly assembled lash up between the leadership of the RMT, who are funding the campaign, The Morning Star / CPB and the Socialist Party who are providing the bulk of foot solders. Mistakenly the Alliance for Green Socialism has decided to participate in this nationalistic anti European 'little Englander' formation. A far better bet is a vote for the Green Party, especially in London. Jean Lambert has been in the forefront of defending public services and the union campaign against the opt -out of the working time directive. Their is a real danger that No2EU could help the BNP gain seats and loose the Green Party its representation in Europe.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

About me

I work for Lewisham Council as a housing manager tackling empty property. Offering advice and support to traders, businesses and landlords to repair and bring back into use empty property- perhaps flats above shops but also long term empty property -some of it derelict. However where owners keep property empty for no good reason, depriving someone in housing need of a home, the Council has power to serve notices and take action.

I have also worked as a housing officer for a housing co-operative and worked on the Pepys estate in Deptford. I have also worked in the Homeless Persons Unit and managed a small leasing team acquiring property for homeless people. I have also jointly managed a project to support asylum seekers and managed the Council's hostels in the borough.

I have lived in Lewisham since 1981. I live in Catford in a terraced house (not a bungalow) with my wife who is a social worker, son and daughter. My lad attends Crofton School -sorry Penderghast Ladywell Fields! My adult daughter attends South Bank University.

If elected as the MP for West Lewisham & Penge I would only accept the pay of an average worker in London and would only claim for public transport used on official business. I would publish a regular and detailed record of any expenses claimed.

I own £15 of shares in the Peoples Press Friendship Society -the publishers of the Morning Star
I am an active member of the Unite union and was the union convenor in the Council representing some of the lowest paid Council workers -road sweepers. I am a supporter of the Alliance for Green Socialism.

I am a green socialist and would seek to argue for policies which defend the interests of ordinary working people but also seek to protect and sustain the environment.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Second MP admits claiming for a paid up mortgage

Another MP, has been found to have claimed £13,000 in mortgage interest payments on a property where he had already finished paying the mortgage. What is shocking is not that another MP has been found out to have done this, but he did not realise he had even finished paying his mortgage but he has been able to pay of his mortage at such an early age! Most working people, if they have been able to obtain a mortgage do not finish paying for their home from their lender until they reach retirement age. Obviously this MP is earning so much that he does not even notice the hundreds of pounds leaving his account each month!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Independent candidacy for West Lewisham & Penge

The news that many many MP's are living the high life at public expenses is really shocking - repairing leaks under their tennis courts, cleaning chandeliers, paying for gardeners cutting lawns that are so big that it takes 4 hours, -even the dredging moats!

The list is not only scandalous but demonstrates the vast disparity of wealth and income in our society between those who have been elected and ordinary working people. If 'flipping homes' and claiming £400 per month for food was not enough, even some members of parliament have been found to be accepting financial reward to influence legislation! A special panel is now being established by the Police to determine if any criminal charges are warranted -it is likely that few if any will end up facing charges as the MP's make up their own rules! When so many people are loosing their jobs and struggling to pay their rent and mortgages no wonder people are angry.

This however is very damaging for democracy. We may see the prospect of mass absenteeism or people voting for reactionary and racist parties of the right. We could be entering uncharted waters with the collapse of the existing established political parties and the birth of new parties. It is therefore vital that people who hold progressive and socialist views have candidates to vote for in the next election.

Disappointingly it would appear that the Green Party is only gaining limited increased support -indicating that a broad layer of people could be won to a radical agenda of not just a concern for the environment but a criticism of the way society is organised in the interest of rich and powerful. I have therefore decided to stand again for the re-drawn seat of Lewisham West & Penge.

I would welcome help and support from anyone who holds a similar view on the current political situation. Feel free to send me an email at